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Harte hails Championship boost as he targets Tyrone hat-trick

By John Campbell

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is among a posse of high-profile GAA personalities who have hailed confirmation that eircom will now become the prime sponsor of the All Ireland Football Championship.

The initial agreement which commences with this year’s Championship, is for a three-year period with an option to extend. It is understood eircom, which up until now has been more prominently identified with soccer and rugby sponsorship, will pump some €3.2 million into the GAA coffers.

Harte, who has guided Tyrone to All Ireland success in 2003, ’05 and ’08 and who attended yesterday's sponsorship unveiling in Dublin, believes that the new sponsorship deal will help stimulate even more interest in the Championship which gets under way next month.

“This is a great boost for the GAA as a whole. Now that the finals stage of the National League has been reached it is understandable that all attention will immediately switch to the football Championship,” said Harte.

“The sponsorship boost is particularly welcome given the current financial situation which prevails in the country.”

With his Tyrone side having already been thrust into the favourites’ role for the Ulster title, Harte is adopting a cautious approach as he faces into the championship season.

“Obviously we would love to have won promotion to Division One of the league, but it wasn’t to be,” said Harte.

“We have now gone five games unbeaten and that gives us considerable grounds for optimism.”

Stephen O’Neill is still injured, but with Brian Dooher and Philip Jordan back in his squad, Harte has every justification for thinking that Tyrone can make it three Ulster titles on the trot.

And should this hat-trick be achieved it could prove the prelude to an All Ireland success.

“We don’t want to look too far down the line. A lot of teams will feel they can win the Ulster championship. Optimism will prevail in most counties and we would be hopeful that we can build on our recent consistency,” says Harte.

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